Cape Town company to manufacture Covid-19 vaccine

Biopharmaceutical company Biovac will collaborate with US-based ImmunityBio to manufacture a second-generation Covid-19 vaccine

Paul Ash Senior reporter
Cape Town-based Biovac will partner a US-based company to manufacture a Covid-19 vaccine.
Cape Town-based Biovac will partner a US-based company to manufacture a Covid-19 vaccine.
Image: Reuters / Mike Hutchings

Cape Town-based biopharmaceutical company Biovac is to collaborate with US-based immunotherapy company ImmunityBio to manufacture a second-generation Covid-19 vaccine, the company said on Thursday.

ImmunityBio’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate, now undergoing clinical trials in SA and the US, works by killing infected cells and preventing the virus from replicating.

University of Cape Town (UCT) researchers have commenced a phase 1 clinical trial of a hAd5 T-cell SARS-CoV-2 vaccine developed by ImmunityBio after approval from the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA). 

The trial is being carried at the Wellcome Centre for Infectious Diseases Research in Africa (CIDRI-Africa) Khayelitsha Clinical Research Site, the company said.

ImmunityBio chair Patrick Soon-Shiong said he was “excited” about the potential of the company’s vaccine candidate.

“Unlike antibody-based vaccines, T-cell-based vaccines kill the infected cell, preventing virus replication, and could provide long-term memory to recipients,” he said.

“Pursuing a vaccine that does not rely solely on targeting the S protein where the mutations are occurring is of critical importance as multiple variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus have appeared globally, with concentrated outbreaks being detected in SA.”

Part of the trial will be to determine if the vaccine can be delivered orally, he added.

The partnership involves a technology transfer which will see Boivac expand its capacity from formulating and finishing vaccines to manufacturing them as well.

Biovac CEO Dr Morena Makhoana said the collaboration was a strategic step in the quest to build vaccine-manufacturing capability in Africa.

“These collaborations are a significant stepping stone to addressing the gap in Africa of self-reliance and pandemic response capability,” he said.

Biovac was established in 2003 to revive local human vaccine production in Southern Africa.

In November, Biovac was cleared to begin formulating Prevnar 13, a childhood anti-pneumonia vaccine, on behalf of US-based pharma giant Pfizer. The vaccine contained 13 elements which needed to be blended.

Despite widespread conspiracy theories and anti-vaxxer movements, vaccines remained one of the key tools in health care, he said.

ImmunityBio work focuses on developing late-clinical-stage immunotherapy drugs and vaccines for combating cancers and infectious diseases.

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